Emerging Technology

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Industry Experts Discuss Technology's Role in Transforming How Realtors® Do Business During the Pandemic

WASHINGTON (November 17, 2020) – The coronavirus pandemic significantly disrupted real estate transactions and accelerated the reliance on innovative technologies to conduct business, according to a group of industry experts featured at the 2020 REALTORS® Conference & Expo.

Jeb Griffin, director of Strategy and Innovation for the National Association of Realtors®, moderated the discussion – "COVID-19 – Transforming How Realtors® Do Business" – and reached a consensus with the panelists that technology has played a central part in residential real estate's strong resurgence after the initial strict economic lockdowns and subsequent market downturn in the spring.

"Real estate experienced some significant challenges during the first several months of the pandemic, but we've witnessed a remarkable v-shaped recovery in housing demand and sales," said Griffin. "By necessity at the beginning, and now by design, technology is playing a much more active role in nearly all aspects of the real estate transaction."

"There was a moment of panic when the pandemic first started, but several technologies are making it easier for agents to stay in touch with clients and in front of them on a regular basis," said Marilyn Wilson, managing partner of WAV Group and president of RETechnology.com. "For many real estate professionals, the pandemic reminded them about how much they love working with people and not just to sell real estate, but to check on their customers and families."

Many Realtors® now rely on videoconference platforms in their interactions with clients, but an even broader acceptance of the technology hasn't yet occurred, possibly due to an unexpected reality.

"This technology was adopted very quickly following the lockdowns because the virus was hitting everyone – agents, lenders, consumers – all at the same time," said Nick Bailey, chief customer officer, RE/MAX, LLC. "Videoconferencing technology isn't new, but we're slower to adopt technologies than we'd like to admit. The reason is that we don't want to see or hear ourselves. We have to get over that and use it."

Electronic signatures and remote online notarizations are two technologies experiencing an ever-growing appeal during a time when social and physical distancing measures are required to maximize safety. However, some challenges still remain.

"There is some amazing technology that exists and remote online notarization is one of those technologies," said Andy Ambrose, practice lead at DocuSign Notary. But there's a whole ecosystem of technologies that should work better together and seamlessly."

"Integrating those core programs like e-signatures and RON are key," Ambrose continued. "Unfortunately, there isn't uniformity at the county level for doing electronic signings and closings. Embracing title companies and lenders who have that ability for full electronic signings and closings will be important."

Each speaker emphasized that many of the technological advancements currently in use will remain relevant and sought after by Realtors® and consumers alike, well beyond the pandemic's conclusion.

"Some of these technologies are here to stay, like 3-D virtual tours, as some consumers will continue to be uncomfortable with seeing homes in-person," Griffin said. "It's amazing how some of the virtual platforms can take an empty room and fill it with furniture and dynamic lighting. Artificial intelligence and automation are helping drive consumers through the sales cycle."

"The pandemic isn't going anywhere anytime soon," Wilson added. "Consumers love the idea of virtual tours, especially live virtual tours, which they can do with their agents and narrow down their home selections to two or three.

"Imagine how much time you and your client can save without having to drive around and see 10 different homes, Wilson said. "It's so much more efficient. The technology tools are allowing us a lot more flexibility."

Bailey agreed with that sentiment.

"If every agent can take away two pieces of technology to be more efficient, it will improve their business," said Bailey. "The one really bright spot – it has reminded every agent that they are the most important part of the real estate transaction and that's not going to change anytime soon."

The National Association of Realtors® is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.4 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

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